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Apr. 21—The guilty verdict against an ex-police officer in the George Floyd murder case is a step toward "moving the needle" on police accountability, Maine elected officials said Tuesday. But they say more work is needed to change the systems and injustices that allowed for Floyd's death and the deaths of other Black Americans at the hands of law enforcement.
Late Tuesday afternoon, a jury delivered the verdict in the case against former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. He was found guilty of second degree murder, third degree murder and manslaughter for the death of Floyd.
Chauvin knelt on Floyd's neck for about nine minutes last May, an act caught on video and denounced by other law enforcement during the trial. Floyd's killing sparked nationwide protests, including in Portland and other Maine communities where hundreds of Mainers took to the streets demanding justice.
"We cannot have justice without accountability. Today, with a guilty verdict we have moved the needle on accountability," Portland City Councilor Pious Ali said in a statement. "This is a time of reckoning; a reckoning with systems of white supremacy that put my community; that put black lives at a greater risk for police violence. Together it will take all of us to stop the criminalizing and killing of black bodies. Together we fight for justice."
A jury deliberated for about 10 hours over the span of two days before handing down a verdict late Tuesday afternoon. Chauvin, who has been free on bail, was taken into custody following the verdict. He could be sentenced to prison for decades, though a sentencing will not occur for another two months.
While this outcome provides some justice for Floyd's family ― which includes his seven-year-old daughter ― the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine said the verdict cannot make up for the loss of life.
"True justice is George Floyd alive, playing with his daughter, Gianna. True justice is George Floyd alive, taking walks with his fiancée, Courteney. True justice is George Floyd alive, playing basketball with his brother, Philonise," according to a statement from the ACLU of Maine. "While today's verdict is a step forward in the fight for police accountability and may help heal a grieving community, the systems that allowed a police officer to murder Mr. Floyd remain fully intact. The fight for justice by no means ends with this guilty verdict."
Floyd, 46, died May 25 after being arrested for allegedly passing a counterfeit $20 while buying cigarettes. Floyd said he was claustrophobic and struggled with officers when they tried to put him in a police cruiser. He was then pinned to the ground by Chauvin.
Chauvin pressed his knee into Floyd's neck for nine and a half minutes, according to authorities, while Floyd said he couldn't breathe and pleaded for his mother.
In the wake of Tuesday's verdict, Congresswoman Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, said Congress must work to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which Pingree co-sponsored. If passed, the legislation would ban chokeholds, no-knock warrants and end the qualified immunity doctrine for law enforcement.
"George Floyd should be alive today. My heart goes out to his loved ones, who have suffered unimaginable loss," Pingree said in a statement. "This verdict offers small comfort but has demonstrated the overwhelming need for the Senate to pass the Justice in Policing Act now."